Photo illustration by Grace Farley. (Grace Farley)
Photo illustration by Grace Farley.

Grace Farley

Assassins elicits new concerns

Safety, gun violence points of debate

April 12, 2018

This story has been modified since the release of the print edition April 11.

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What is Nerf assassins?

Tasked with designing the rule book and running the game, senior Jonny Sorenson said he is excited to organize the Nerf assassins game with fellow senior Ryan Klaers.

“I’m pretty excited,” Sorenson said. “People have been asking me all year if it was going to happen and saying I should do it. I’m also pretty conscientious of the fact that it’s supposed to be fun but obviously safety is number one.”

Klaers said assassins is a student-run competition with the objective of using spongy Nerf darts to eliminate (known commonly as “kill”) other game participants. A set amount of money is required to participate in the event, and the winning team splits the pool along with the event organizers at the end of the competition, according to Klaers

According to Klaers, there are several rule changes this year making the game different from previous years.

“A primary rule change is that the scoring is all based on ‘kills’ instead of last year where there was an incentive to be the last team standing,” Klaers said. “Along with that, this year the ‘hit lists,’ which are the list of names you’re supposed to (eliminate), and the amount of time which (the list) is relevant will be shorter.”

Klaers said new rules were implemented in order to make the game quicker.

“The game seemed to drag on last year,” Klaers said. “So we wanted it to be quicker and more efficient so it doesn’t take over everyone’s lives.”

According to Klaers, he and Sorenson implemented a new rule requiring participants in the freshman class to pay double the normal cost in order to play.

“For freshmen, it’s generally harder to get them involved in the game because they can’t drive,” Klaers said. “So if they’re willing to pay that price then we want them to be able to be involved.”

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Safety concerns and precautions

Although assassins is played nearly every year, teacher Erik Ahlquist said the game is more detrimental than beneficial.

“I know it happens every year, but I think it has the potential to be dangerous and disruptive,” Ahlquist said. “I know it consumes the life of some kids to the point where they won’t do anything because they’re worried about losing and so they will give up other things.”

According to Sorenson, he and Klaers feel safety is the most important factor when organizing the competition.

“Priority number one is safety and protection,” Sorenson said. “We want everyone to be safe and understand that it will be fun, but safety is the most important thing so if anyone has concerns, they should let us know.”

Assistant Principal Charles Johnson-Nixon said, though the game cannot be played on school grounds, he would not like to see the game being played within the community.

“It may be fun, but there is a time and place for everything,” Johnson-Nixon said. “I’d much rather see students rent out a nice warehouse space and do it there instead of on school grounds or in surrounding areas.”

Science teacher Patrick Hartman said as long as students are keeping safety in mind, the game can be enjoyable.

“I think as long as people are being safe, like (not) jumping out of cars and on top of cars and as long as it’s not coming in and affecting the school day, I think that it’s some good, clean fun,” Hartman said

Ahlquist said he is concerned the game may lead to misunderstanding and real danger.

“When is somebody going to take it too far, when is somebody going to do a drive by ‘kill’ for assassins and suddenly it’s mistaken for a real thing and there’s a pretty serious consequence,” Ahlquist said. “Or what happens if somebody does something really stupid and that game creates an accident or gets somebody else hurt?”

Livingston said because of incidents with the game in the past, players must follow rules closely in order to keep themselves and others safe and respected.

“My only concern with it is that people need to respect property because our property was not respected last year — that’s why my uncle made Violet and I quit,” Livingston said. “Our property wasn’t respected and obviously (players must) be very careful about driving.”

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Implication of current events

Johnson-Nixon said the game is occurring at a poor time because of recent incidents of gun violence within schools around the nation.

“When you look at today’s society the last thing I think anyone wants to do is do something that promotes some type of violence,” Johnson-Nixon said. “Even if it’s a Nerf game.”

Livingston said the assassins game and gun control issues can be separated.

“I think people can play assassins but still be for gun control,” Livingston said. “I don’t think they’re very correlated.”

According to Klaers, many students expressed interest in participating in the competition despite recent events.

“We kind of tested the waters to see if people were even interested in playing this year because we know that everything has been going on and it’s a serious matter,” Klaers said. “It seemed the general consensus was that (players) understood that it’s a light hearted game and that it was somewhat of a tradition and they wanted to keep it going.”

According to Livingston, the violent nature of Nerf assassins may misrepresent the reality of gun violence, despite player intent.

“(The players’) intention is not to mock gun violence, so I don’t have anything against anyone who plays it,” Livingston said. “But I do think it’s a sensitive subject and people who have never experienced gun violence don’t realize how serious and how scary it actually is to be involved.”

Senior Elliot Schochet said Nerf assassins is a direct representation of an American cultural view on guns.

“When you play assassins, I’m not sure if the game is played in the rest of the world, but I think it’s a reflection of the culture that exists in this country around guns and how normal they are,” Schochet said.

Klaers said he encourages players to have open conversations on the issue.

“This game is just that, it’s a game and it’s not worth anyone being harmed or feeling uncomfortable over,” Klaers said. “We attached means to contact us, and if anyone feels uncomfortable with how the game is being played or carried out, we want them to come to us so we can fix it. It’s a sensitive matter that we don’t want to toy with.”

Sophomore Sam Sietsema said Nerf assassins seems counterintuitive following the schools’ recent #Enough Walkout against gun violence.

“I don’t think a lot of others should participate (in Nerf assassins) because, while its not doing anyone damage, it’s still is sort of hypocritical against what we all marched for,” Sietsema said.

Schochet said he feels participants should pay attention to the implication that the game has.

“I wouldn’t discourage people participating, but I would encourage people to take a step back and realize that this probably does have a lot to do with how we celebrate guns in our country,” Schochet said

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